12-year-old girl's forced marriage revoked by Iraqi court
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kadhimiya Court in Baghdad revoked the marriage contract of the 12-year-old Iraqi girl Esra'a and returned her to her mother Hanan on Tuesday after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and the head of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council Faiq Zaidan directly intervened in the case.
"Al-Kadhimi on Tuesday ordered a security force from the Baghdad operations unit to go with Hanan to where her daughter Esra'a was living under a forced marriage with her husband Abbas to save her," Lina Ali, a civil society activist, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday.
Abbas and Esra'a's father attempted to resist the security forces with gunfire, but the security forces saved Esra'a and returned her to her mother.
Ali said that Esra'a was beaten and her dress torn by Abbas's sister (the second wife of Esra'a's father) right before the security forces saved her.
"I helped arrange one on one meetings for Hanan with Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi and Judge Zaidan so she could have a chance to explain all the facts and details about her daughter's case to them," Ali said.
The Freedoms Observatory for the Defense of Women and Children association, of which Ali is a member, thanked Al-Kadhimi on its Facebook page on Wednesday for helping save Esra'a.
"Media and women rights activists played a pivotal role in making Esra'a's case public, through the media's intensive coverage and through protests that civil society activists held in front of the court," Ali said.
"I supported Hanan from the beginning since her video (calling for help) circulated in social media," Ali said. "And I went to meet her at her home where she told me that her ex-husband has kidnapped her daughter and forcibly had her marry his second wife's brother Abbas."
"Hanan told me that Abbas raped her daughter after her father kidnapped her."
Ali pointed out that Esra'a is just a 12-year-old girl who, physically, hasn’t matured enough to marry and needs to return to school.
"A quick action to save her was necessary," she said.
Ali also said that she helped raise Hanan's voice on international media and raise awareness of her case among relevant Iraqi government offices. She accompanied Hanan to the court to follow up with the lawyers working on Esra'a's case.
"In the beginning, the court didn't support Esra'a and kept procrastinating," Ali said.
"Then, on Sunday, November 21, when the court adjourned a hearing to allow Abbas to formalize his religious marriage, the court came under huge pressure from women rights activists who protested outside the court with banners reading 'the marriage of minors is a crime against childhood.'"
"Under pressures from the protestors, the court postponed the hearing until November 28," Ali said. "However, following Hanan's meetings with Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi and Judge Zaidan, things have positively changed, and Esra'a was saved."
Under Iraqi law, the legal age for marriage is 18. However, the law permits certain exceptions. For example, judges can authorize a marriage they determine as an urgent necessity or issue a marriage contract approved by the girl's father.